Full review of KSIII

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Law
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Re: Full review of KSIII

Post by Law » Wed Feb 10, 2016 4:20 pm

Thanks!

And -- I just got my pre-sale set! The doors set! So now I have double doors, and that cool green "nobleman's door" for the Tudor houses. GAH! These things are so freaking cool! The double door changes EVERYTHING! It completely transforms the space! How could I have populated entire cities with structures lacking such a fundamental piece!

I think we all know what this means....

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whyteshark
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Re: Full review of KSIII

Post by whyteshark » Wed Feb 10, 2016 2:22 pm

Great review. Thorough, engaging, and now I am weeping as I wait for mine to come in March.
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Re: Full review of KSIII

Post by Saxon1974 » Tue Jan 26, 2016 12:25 pm

Thanks Law nice review, and I read the whole thing!

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William
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Re: Full review of KSIII

Post by William » Tue Jan 26, 2016 11:58 am

Sounds like someone is seeing the advantage of smaller pieces. That is why I cut lots of my pieces into 1x2's and some 1x1's. The versatility expands almost exponentially.

Also, I love the reviews Law, I can't wait to compare your words to something in my hands. ;)
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Law
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Re: Full review of KSIII

Post by Law » Tue Jan 26, 2016 11:48 am

Quick addendum: figures and sewers!

Figs:
I have gotten almost every DF miniature so far (never got the fire imps), and these are, without a doubt, my absolute favorites. In fact, they're my favorite prepainted minis of all I've ever seen.

Prior DF minis, some were good and some less so good. The lizardmen are VERY nice, and I love the little blowpipe lizardmen that came as a freebie with multiple lake orders. The orcs are also great classic orcs (which means they're very simple, but well done). The skeletons I thought were the weakest - hard to do skeletons properly in a mass prepainted line, the detail work is so crucial to them.

But these are SPECTACULAR. Yes, the faces on some of the guardsmen are not what you'd get if you hired a CMON or Golden Demon award-winner to paint your minis for you (or, you know, if you're Kronos or Feymous or several other forum members whose painting skills blow me away). But the faces on most of them are pretty good, and the faces on many of my townsfolk are GREAT. They certainly are at least on par with other prepainted lines, if not better.

In general, while some of the details are typical for prepainted figures -- the beard on the drinking guy, for example -- the paint is on the whole clean and well applied, and the colors well chosen. Plus -- hey, it's the 21st century! Some of these dudes aren't white! Bonus points. In general, I'm happy with the choice of poses, level of detail, paint jobs -- and having them in durable Dwarvenite is VERY nice. The durability makes it easy to clean up, since you can toss the minis in a box at the end. It also makes it easier to set things up, because you don't have to treat them with kid gloves.

I love the grab bag minis I've seen, too. On the whole, I think this is an absolutely spectacular set of figures, really.

Sewers:

I like the sewers a LOT more than I expected to. I was one of the people clamoring for sewers back in the day, and I still remember freaking out when Stefan posted early sculpts. But, see, the thing is, I wanted them primarily because I wanted a dungeon counterpart to the cavernous lake and river sets. I wanted them to be resin, I wanted them to have clear water, and I wanted to be able to easily make long canals with slimy water in them, just in a dungeon instead of a cavern. So, I was a little disappointed that these were not what I'd been hoping to see.

Plus, while I recognize the advantages of the engineering behind these, it makes them a bit more cumbersome to use. Instead of just plonking down pieces the way you can with rivers, you have to set down first the sluices, then the floors, then the walls. True, the river pieces had moveable walls -- but those were optional. Here, at the very least you'll need to put down floors. And you'll need walls at SOME point. It gives GREAT advantages for versatility, because you can use the walls in other contexts, you can decide where you want floors or if you want to skip them and make just sluice tunnels. I get that. But it also means that setting them up is a bit more of a headache.

But all that falls away when you look at a sewer chamber and it just looks SO AWESOME. The lack of clear resin water is irrelevant when you see the algae and slime and, er, detritus on the sluiceways. And the flexibility of being able to make whole open chambers or just narrow tunnels is awesome. I love the fact that the sewers make good support for the streets above, which kinda kills two birds with one stone -- if you want sewers under your city you don't need to figure out how to support your upper level, you just actually use the sewers to support it and then you'll have sewers under the city. Nice.

Of course, to do that I'll need at least a few more sewer sets. So that's top on my list. And I may decide to have part of the sewer lead to the catacombs as well... it just makes sense.

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Re: Full review of KSIII

Post by kodiakbear » Mon Jan 25, 2016 3:57 pm

Excellent review.

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Re: Full review of KSIII

Post by Law » Mon Jan 25, 2016 12:02 pm

Hm. I didn't notice anything -- and I've definitely mixed things up a little. I put the Tudor walls in the stone posts and didn't notice a problem. I also used the double posts, but I only used the Tudor doubles. But I would think if the Tudor walls were longer, I'd have seen it with the posts.

In general, I found that the rubbery nature of Dwarvenite made the whole structure a bit wobbly - not in a bad way, but just, if you squeezed everything you'd get a tighter fit. Also, when picking things up, it was generally better to lift (whenever possible) by holding from underneath the floor. Squeezing it, the stuff is soft enough I occasionally had walls pop out -- and in general when I was lifting an assembled building I noticed that it felt like if I squeezed hard enough, I could break it -- probably not pop posts out altogether, but definitely knock them askew, and probably askew enough that walls would fall out. It's not that the fit is loose, it's just that the material is rubbery. It will wiggle even though it's snugly in place. But, again, it's actually a good thing because it means you can get a snug fit without it being hard to place the inserts -- best of both worlds. The other two choices are a snug fit but it's hard to fit the pieces in place, or they slight right in place but you can see a gap.

As for issues -- well, to be fair, I was working pretty fast, because it took me a long time to set things up and I wanted to get a lot of pictures, so sometimes I only noticed issues after I was looking at my pics. So it's possible that some things weren't perfect and I just missed it (which, hey, means it was pretty minor, right?)

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Re: Full review of KSIII

Post by pacarat » Mon Jan 25, 2016 11:49 am

Nice review, thanks.

Have you seen any issues with using double posts, with a stone floor next to a wood floor?

we are seeing a difference in fit between tudor and stone walls. tudor walls appear to be longer, enough that they cause posts on end/corner to bow out

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Full review of KSIII

Post by Law » Mon Jan 25, 2016 11:37 am

OK -- so I've had two and a half days to mess around with my sets, to figure out what works and what doesn't work, and I can do a full review. Settle in, buckle up, it's gonna be a long post.

At a very general level, I'm extremely happy with the City Builder System. It does exactly what I hoped it would do, and it's hella fun putting together cities and figuring out what to do next. Everything works well, well enough to be functional if not better, and I'm really happy with it and looking forward to using it a lot over the years. I may even have to scale back some of my non-CBS collection just to make room for all the stuff I've picked up, and intend to pick up once the CBS is in the online store.

So what can I say other than generic praise and joy?

The streets are really great -- in some ways, they're the focal point for me. I already had the ability to make buildings with MBS and dungeon pieces. I even made some crude roof pieces once with Plastrux. But while there are printed cobblestone mats out there, and even textured ones, nothing works as well as the CBS streets. They're just outstanding. (Plus, not only do CBS buildings look better than the approximations I could make before, they look more complete with they're sitting on a sidewalk and there's a curb and a street - it all works together!) They look great, and it's really a lot of fun to make little mazes out of them and just figure out the roadplan for your city. There's also a lot of versatility as to how you use the streets. You can use them to carve up where you place your buildings, or you can just have a basic large circle and break up the buildings with sidewalks to create pedestrian alleys. Really, I could spend an afternoon playing around with CBS and not ever take out a building. The streets are just so much fun. Just like with prior DF sets, it's a bit of a puzzle. If you want to use everything, and have it all line up right, you have to tinker with it. I frequently find myself running out of straight road pieces, mostly because I have to get used to thinking symmetrically - the longer I make a city block, I'm gonna need straight roads on the bottom for every piece I used at the top. And so on. There are a lot of straight roads, especially with all the variations, but they get eaten up FAST.

As for the buildings... Considering there are just the two basic styles, it's amazing how versatile the CBS is and how many different kinds of buildings one can make. Without even getting into the different ways you can combine basic 4x4 buildings into different shapes and heights, you can switch styles of roof (or orientation of roof, or use of gables), you can include balconies, you can add stairs or doors, you can change window styles, you can add signs or other flourishes. There are just so many ways to do it -- I played around all weekend and barely scratched the surface. And the design and execution on the parts is OUTSTANDING. The black soot on the chimneys, the hanging signposts, the balconies, they all look spectacular. This is some of the highest quality miniatures terrain I've ever seen, from any company. Just looking at some of these things like the chimneys, I can't imagine them looking any better.

As I mentioned in another post, for people like me with a basic Capital City pledge plus add-ons, we've got a choice to make. We can either make a layout that pretty much centers on one large building (with a few leftovers) or we can make a full city neighborhood out of smaller buildings. If I want everything to be L-shaped buildings or larger, that eats up whole city blocks very quickly. It makes it difficult to get a cohesive whole. My first experiments with the city involved a lot of these types of buildings and the layout ended up a bit cluttered IMO. Whereas when I built Notsob, I just went with one long boulevard and a straight line of simple houses bordering it -- and it looked (again, IMO) AMAZING. That city really felt like a city, instead of a blob of buildings stuck together.

One thing I'm tinkering with is how to make it clear when a set of pieces is meant to reflect a single building (even if it has, say, stone in some parts and wood in others) and when it's meant to be several buildings jammed up against each other. Using different roof styles helps set them apart, I've found, and of course having doors all over the place helps, too. But I do think it can be confusing to merge the two -- in other words, if you've got a large inn and its first floor is three Tudor buildings next to each other, you can't then ALSO have other buildings stuck next to them or the inn will start to dissolve and just look like a bunch of Tudor buildings on a block with other buildings. To make it look like one solid building, maybe separate it out from other buildings with sidewalk pieces or street pieces.

A few layout experiments I tried, which people may have seen in the pics I posted, involved using the half-roof pieces for something other than just sticking them next to each other and pretending they're a whole roof. One was to place a roof and a half over a single floor, and prop up the overhang with columns from the dungeon sets (the basic column design is from the original DF dungeon sets, but I can't recall if the Dwarvenite version was in KS1 or KS2). Another idea was to place a single building on top of two buildings, in the middle, and use the half roof pieces on either side. That way you can use those roof pieces without trying to pretend they're one single roof, which will never look as nice.

I tend to use a minimum of the accessories for interiors just because right now I'm focusing on the city aspect of the set. I placed the tapestries on the outside wall of a tall tower, as banners, and I placed the coat-of-arms on the outside of an inn, but mostly I'm leaving those aside for now (and the dragon head and shelves) because, while they're AWESOME, I just am not yet ready to play around with interior builds. (Admittedly, I also think the set is designed for exteriors and the interiors won't ever look as good -- you'll still have post holes, you'll have exposed post slots, and you have a larger footprint which isn't great for interior spaces.) I also tend to ignore, as a result, which kind of floor I'm using -- I want to keep stone with stone and Tudor with Tudor (though stone walls on a wood floor still looks kinda neat), but I'm ignoring whether there's a trap door, or a stairwell, or nothing underneath -- because nobody is going to see it! The only exception I make is for when I use a basic floor as a balcony, then I like to have a stairwell with stairs visible in it. I think that looks great.

Speaking of such things -- I tended not to use the double posts, because they restrict my ability to move things around if I decide to change up my layout, and slow me down if I have to break up a single wall. But in doing it like this, I found that I was shorting myself. I ordered only one Tudor floor add-on but a TON of wall add-ons (magnet walls, light-up walls, stone walls) and I noticed at the end that I had plenty of walls leftover, and even a few floors, but I was short on posts. Then I realized it was because I hadn't used ANY of the double posts. Once I stuck those in, I realized I could make 3 or 4 other whole buildings (minus roofs) to add to my layout. Those double posts are unavoidable, if you're trying to use everything you can. And, I admit, they are really nice -- they increase stability and they look really good (because they close gaps!)

Is it perfect? No, it's not perfect. There are necessary sacrifices made for the sake of modularity, durability, and so on. The paint jobs are probably the best paint jobs we've ever gotten on pre-painted Dwarvenite, but it still falls short of the resin sets in their heyday. The mermaid fountain from the original resin dungeon sets, for example, has a lot of intricate detail on it, and its all extremely well painted. The stones in the flagstone wall look like actual stone. There's no bleed where the color on the moss on the walls ends. It's fantastic. The Dwarvenite details tend to have slop or bleed in some places -- some of my wood floors have a vague attempt at painting the nails but it ends up being silver splotched lines at regular interval -- and the weathering on the stone walls appears to have been done in about 3 or 4 steps instead of about 10. There is enough there to bring out some detail and look nice, but looking at stone walls up close in Dwarvenite, you're NEVER going to confuse it for the resin stuff. At the same time, the wooden beams are painted VERY well, and there's no bleed at all between them and the walls. The roof pieces and road pieces, again, seem pretty flawless -- no bleed around the grass/moss tufts, and nice detail. It's a much better paintjob than we've seen in prior Dwarvenite, and the resin stuff set a VERY high bar, so I'm happy. (To be fair, the resin stuff isn't always perfect -- many of the bones in the Catacombs sets have a lot of bleed, too. And just to be clear, this stuff HAD to be Dwarvenite. Those posts, the whole setup, it would just be so vulnerable in resin -- all these pieces, it would be so easy for them to break, and it would be a nightmare to store it all securely. This would not have been possible before Dwarvenite.)

The fit? The fit is snug, but not too snug. There are occasionally small gaps between the posts and the wall inserts (which you can reduce by using double posts WHENEVER POSSIBLE), and small gaps between the top of a wall and whatever's above it -- a roof or another floor. Some of those can be fixed, but I tend to think it's a bit of a neverending quest to try to make them disappear altogether. They're small enough to miss if you're just standing at a table looking at a setup -- you've got to be getting way up close and LOOKING for issues for them to stand out to you. As for warping issues, I didn't have any other than on a few pieces. One of my road pieces had a noticeable warp, but really, everything fit together well enough for me to be happy. But I wouldn't expect it to lock together as though it had been all sculpted as one piece.

For my purposes, I could do without the rubbery dots on the underside of the floors. I see how in a gaming environment, with people leaning over and moving pieces around, those would be VERY helpful. But I don't use them that way, and for me, they just get in the way. I'll notice streets aren't aligned just right, but moving them over is difficult because my buildings won't budge. Or, more frequently, I'll want to swap out a wall piece on a large building, and I'll need to slide over the top 2 or 3 floors so I can reach the one I want and slide it out -- and sliding the floors over is pretty much impossible with those rubber dots. So -- bonus for people who like them, they're REALLY EFFECTIVE. ;) But they kinda get in my way.

The design of the set also doesn't lend itself, IMO, to making very large stone buildings -- primarily, castles. They look cool and they're fun, but they aren't using the set at its best. When you have a large stone building, it's easier to notice the floors breaking up the build, it starts to look a little more like what it is -- six or nine individual stone cubes stacked on top of one another. Larger structures work better when they mix up materials, have wood on top of stone, put a balcony in there, just cover them in stuff to distract from the thick floor line interrupting the walls. And of course the Tudor style doesn't suffer from this as much because it's MEANT to have large wooden beams crossing this way and that.

(If KS4 is going to borrow this basic template, I recommend adding texture and detail to the side of the stone floors to minimize the cumulative effect of having a lot of floors interrupting what's meant to be a solid large wall)

My final nitpick is with the tavern pieces. I already had the resin tavern, and I picked this up primarily for the light up candles. And while they're neat, they aren't QUITE perfect. The light itself is great -- not too bright, but then, it's a CANDLE, and the pinprick is actually really awesome and the best part. But, the necessities involved in the electronics for this kinda thing make the candle itself a bit of an amorphous blob. I can't imagine how it could have gone any other way, but they don't look great. If I'm not using the light, I'd probably just go with the tavern tables I already had.


Final note -- still trying to work out how best to store everything. This being Dwarvenite, it's tempting to toss it all in a giant bin, but that doesn't seem practical here (and is a very bad idea for some things, like the torch walls, where those torches could easily get broken and damaged). For ease-of-reuse, I want to keep things together as much as possible, like grouping the alley streets or grouping the accessories I use most (like signs and chimneys). I also find that, since it's time consuming to remove or replace the posts, I tend to stack my floors with posts for short-term (i.e. overnight) storage, and that means I can save space by just sticking the walls in place. They don't take up any more room in the stacked towers, and in fact take up less room because now I don't have a box of walls to worry about. But I'm wondering if I'll want to do that long-term. I can't imagine how it could be bad for them, but maybe it is. And regardless, it will take up less room in the long run to stack floors together and walls together and have a box of posts.

My kitchen table was a city all weekend, and my patient wife was very understanding (and our son was having a GREAT time helping me - his favorite thing is to place the ladders as bridges between buildings and stage fights between the town guard and the ratmen). Now I just want ANOTHER full set so I can really make my living space completely uninhabitable. ;)

So that's it -- my terribly long review. tl;dr -- This is absolutely worth every penny and I'm really happy with it. Making cities out of DF is a whole new approach, and it's so satisfying I can't believe I did without it for so long. The details and versatility of this stuff are amazingly high quality.

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